Norwich City 0, Scunthorpe 0
CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City's long barren run goes on, but some valuable shoots of recovery were evident at Carrow Road tonight.
Norwich City's long barren run goes on, but some valuable shoots of recovery were evident at Carrow Road tonight.
After a dour 45 opening minutes City came to life after the break and, but for the width of an upright and some nervous finishing, could have ended a run of five defeats in their last six games.
The result wasn't what City wanted, but the manner of the performance suggests there is life in Peter Grant's managerial reign.
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What he must now address is the goal drought, which has now stretched to seven hours and 45 minutes and frankly, it rarely looked like ending tonight.
The latest City stalemate was played out in front of 23,176 fans - City's lowest crowd of the season reflecting the mess they find themselves in.
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Grant had turned to experience in his hour and a half of need, clearly feeling the combined experience of Dion Dublin, Darren Huckerby and Jamie Cureton - who have amassed more than 1,600 appearances and 544 goals between them -would help City out of their predicament, which has seen them slip to 21st in the table.
Dublin's return was greeted with a huge cheer from the Canaries' supporters, as Grant went back to basics, with a 4-4-2 formation that saw Lee Croft recalled on the right with and Huckerby on the left, Dublin returning from a three-match suspension to partner Cureton up front. Michael Spillane was missing from the squad, with Darel Russell recalled to midfield in his place, while Simon Lappin was dropped for the first time this season.
Not surprisingly it was an edgy opening by both sides, although Huckerby injected some life into proceedings with a bright run on seven minutes which ended when he was fouled by Cliff Byrne, who earned a booking for his efforts.
It was something of a false dawn, with the game quickly descending into the mediocre, although most of the early action was, worryingly, being played out in City's half.
Huckerby came to life again on 17 minutes as Russell and Dublin worked an opening for him on the left. The winger made his way across the edge of the area but put too much weight on his pass for Croft.
Jarvis and Dublin repeated the move on the right earning a corner, but the quality of crossing left a little to be desired.
Scunthorpe midfielder Jim Goodwin had the first shot of any description, although the fact it went way over David Marshall's crossbar just about illustrated the quality of play.
It prompted one or two lively attacks from Norwich, who were showing a few more flashes of style to go with their work up front. The problem was sustaining it.
Scunthorpe's play was generally consistent, although when Kevan Hurst got possession there was always the prospect of something happening, as on 31 minutes when he put in a shot which Marshall caught above his head - it was that exciting.
City were hoping for a penalty on 38 minutes when Kelly Youga appeared to push Croft, but referee Kevin Friend was anything but as he waved away their appeals.
Scunthorpe should have gone ahead four minutes before the break when Doherty's slip gave the dangerous Jonathan Forte possession. The big striker took two strides and fired in a left-foot shot which went a foot wide of Marshall's left post.
At the other end Dublin was inches away from a Huckerby cross, the ball refusing to fall kindly to Croft, as both sides sought to end the half on something of a high.
Byrne was lucky to escape a second yellow when he blocked Huckerby's path - having already received an earlier lecture.
It was tough to decide which manager would have been the happier at half-time - City weren't exactly inspiring, but neither were the visitors.
Byrne didn't appear for the second half, replaced by Izzy Irikpien, presumably as a safety measure.
The crowd were stirred into life within a minute, but it was possibly ironic applause that greeted their first decent effort, a 25-yard shot from Jarvis which keeper Joe Murphy got down well to collect.
The Barclay were in good voice but Dublin's looping header from a Drury cross was their only reward in the early stages of the second half.
It improved on 57 minutes when Croft made inroads, worked well with Cureton and then crossed for Huckerby to send in a shot which the keeper parried to his left.
Jarvis had another effort from 25 yards blocked by sub Irikpien as City finally began to warm to their task.
All that was needed was a goal - although ex-City youngster Paul Hayes and Fortune twice came close to getting it at the 'wrong' end.
City, this time, looked unruffled, hitting back with their own attacks in a spell that was far superior to most of which they have served up of late. Croft had come to life, and with Huckerby and Cureton also looking sharper there were promising signs for City.
It nearly went wrong when the visitors launched a rare attack, Hayes laying nit off to Matthew Sparrow in the area only for his shot to take a deflection before coming back off Marshall's right-hand post. It was a close shave for City, as was Hayes' looping attempt minutes later, and a major test of their constitution.
Grant threw on Chris Martin for Cureton - who suffered an ankle injury at the weekend - on 68 minutes and the teenager as immediately involved, setting Croft away down the right and then from the throw turning and firing a brilliant left footer from 25 yards which crashed back off the upright.
Dublin then headed a Jarvis corner wide and suddenly everything was going City's way - except for that elusive goal.
But Cleveland Taylor fired a warning with a header from Forte's cross that drifted past Marshall's right post that City would have to work hard if they were to earn a point, at least.
It was a game which, with quarter of an hour remaining, could have gone either way, even though invitations to score that vital goal were being spurned.
Dublin had a half chance, no more, when he chased a long ball by Doherty, but skewed his shot wide from a difficult angle.
The veteran then slid to the rescue at the other end, doing well to block a goalbound Goodwin effort.
Dublin's end-to-end work then saw him head into Doherty's path only for the defender to send a difficult effort just wide.
Nails were being shredded everywhere as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, Taylor not helping by sending a shot inches wide.
Huckerby had the crowd on their feet with a terrific run which ended when Murphy blocked his shot well - and as far as tonight was concerned that was it.